Driver arraigned in fatal crash

DA: Woman knew she was too drunk to drive

SALEM – Angelique Catherine Griffin told police and EMTs over and over that she didn’t want to drive that night.

Griffin knew she was drunk, on beer and Red Bull mixed with vodka, she told police. But Dillon Renard was insisting on a ride home, she said, and others encouraged her to drive because she appeared to be less intoxicated than other guests at the gathering early Saturday morning.

Renard, just days from what would have been his 20th birthday, took the keys to her car, she told police, so she followed, at first riding as a passenger and then taking over at the wheel after a stop at Tedeschi’s on Main Street in Peabody, near the Salem line.

Within moments, around 3:45 a.m., her Chrysler PT Cruiser slammed into a tow truck parked just up the road, on Boston Street in Salem.

Renard, 19, of Danvers, a young man who family members say “lit up a whole room,” was killed almost immediately.

An Atlantic Ambulance crew found Griffin, 25, of Salem, sitting on the curb with blood on her hands, crying and shaking.

“Did I kill him? Is he dead?” she asked, according to the police report. When the crew asked what happened, she told them, “It’s my fault, it’s my car.”

Yesterday, Griffin pleaded not guilty during her arraignment in Salem District Court to charges of motor vehicle homicide while driving drunk, a separate charge of drunken driving, driving to endanger and driving with an open container of alcohol.

As Renard’s parents, brothers and many friends listened, some sobbing, prosecutor Jane Prince described the crash and the aftermath.

At the scene, Prince told Judge Michael Lauranzano, police found a beer in the car and another on the grass near the wreckage, as well as a 16-ounce plastic cup with alcohol in it.

Prince urged the judge to keep the bail at the $50,000 cash set by a bail clerk over the weekend, noting that Griffin faces a mandatory minimum sentence if convicted. Under the law, she must serve a minimum of one year in jail.

Griffin’s attorney, Scott Dullea, suggested that his client, a mother of 3-year-old twins, is not a flight risk and urged a more modest bail. (Police said Griffin’s father has custody of the children and was caring for them on the night of the crash.)

Dullea said his client’s ties to the area include the large Wiccan community in Salem, noting that she has worked at several downtown Salem witch-themed shops.

Griffin’s Facebook page indicates that she is a niece of Christian Day, a well-known shop owner and promoter.

It also indicates that her favorite activities include “beer.”

According to court papers, Griffin also works at the Golden Banana.

Lauranzano agreed to reduce her bail, though not to the extent sought by Dullea, instead setting it at $10,000 cash.

Dullea said he is not sure whether his client will be able to come up with that amount. If she does, she will have to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet, remain confined to her home, and submit to random tests for alcohol and drugs, the judge ruled. He also ordered her not to drive.

Family members of Renard were disappointed by the bail decision and outraged that Griffin told police that she was fighting off sexual advances from Renard before the crash.

“He was a good kid,” said his father, Philip Renard.

Renard had been working two jobs, said his brother Matt, one at The Home Depot on Route 1 in Danvers and the other at a local T-Mobile store, and was planning to go to North Shore Community College in the fall.

Matt said his brother would visit him at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was excited about going to college himself.

“He loved it there,” Matt said.

His father, choking back tears, said he was fixing up an old Ford Bronco for his son to use to get around once he got his license.

Renard was visiting his grandmother in an area hospice on a daily basis, his family said. That was his plan on Saturday, as well, after he completed his shift at The Home Depot.

“Dillon connected us all,” his father said.

“He was a special kid,” said his mother, Cherie Rubner. “Everybody loved him.”

When family members went to have T-shirts printed with photos of Dillon to wear at a vigil and at court, even the man who ran the kiosk at the mall knew Dillon.

“He just made friends with everybody,” his father said.

And he was always the comedian, whether it was making rap videos for the amusement of his friends or making jokes to cheer up someone who was down.

“If he saw me in a bad mood, he always tried to make me smile,” his brother Philip said.

“He was sunshine on a cloudy day,” his father said.